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War At Home: A Novel
by Nora Eisenberg
Publisher: Leapfrog Press ; Distributed in the U.S. by Consortium Book Sales and Distribution 2002
Category: FictionBronx
Avg Rating: (0 reviews)
Billed as a "memoir novel," this book by Bronx native Eisenberg is a tenderly written yet harrowing portrayal of a family's disintegration in the years after World War II. Lucy Lehman is just a child when her father returns from the war. According to Lucy's mother, Tippy, he was once a sweet young man, but now he is angry and violent, his screaming rages most frequently directed at Lucy's rebellious older brother, Nick, and Tippy, a children's dance instructor (her real-life image graces the book's cover). When Lucy is 10, whatever tacit agreement the family had abruptly ends, and her father leaves the house and shacks up with a mistress named Liberty in the first of several dalliances. This development throws Tippy into a downward spiral of prescription drug abuse and bizarre, erratic behavior that forces Lucy and 13-year-old Nick to fend for themselves. To escape the "chaos of home," they rely on their self-sufficiency as volunteer gardeners at a park and botanical garden and then at the family's Camp Pohogo, where a parental reunion occurs. The reunion, however, like most of Eisenberg's book, remains joyful for only a fleeting moment. By Lucy's teen years, Tippy's over-the-top rampages (e la Mommie Dearest) force brother and sister to run away, and though Nick revels in his independence, Lucy eventually returns and decides to face womanhood back in the hopeless reality of life with Mom in the Bronx. There are no blue skies in Eisenberg's barely fictionalized and often excessively grim account, and this would prove daunting if her prose weren't so graceful. A powerfully somber meditation on the indelible mark of familial strife on children, this impressive first novel is infused with genuine compassion and sorrow.

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